Comics are an art form that that is neither a conventional text nor a work of pure image, and it exists in both printed and online environments. It is both modern and classic, and it has appeal for different generations at the same time.
The latest edition of the Saló del Còmic, the Comics Fair which has now been held for 35 years, is taking place this year between 30 March and 2 April, and it embraces these different aspects.
One of the most charming aspects is, without doubt, the exhibition dedicated to Josep Maria Blanco, who was awarded the main prize in last year’s edition, to coincide with the centenary of the comic TBO where he was one of its leading contributors from 1950 until 1983 when, after several periods of varying fortunes, it finally disappeared.
TBO lent its name to the genre – in Spanish they are called tebeos – and was a reflection of social life in Barcelona and Catalonia: its comic strips were a record of the living conditions, frustrations and hopes of some very dark times. Josep Maria Blanco himself continued the popular saga of the Ulises Family, originally created by the artist Benejam, which showed the tribulations of a middle-class family in the years following the Spanish Civil War.
Returning to the present, where the past is never entirely absent, Tintin, Gaudí, Lucky Luke and Will Eisner, the creator of the graphic novel, will be joined by a selection of cartoon visions of Donald Trump among the exhibitions in this year’s fair.
The most impressive of these is probably the aeroplanes of “Còmics en vol”, an exhibition dedicated to the fascination of comics with flight and great flying machines. Artists and writers have created comics about the epic stories of early flight – the first of which took place little more than a century ago -, featuring dogfights, bombing raids, jet engines, adventures in light aircraft, helicopters and hydroplanes. As well as the drawings, the exhibition allows visitors to explore real aircraft in the Plaça de l’Univers alongside the comics that feature them. It was a real challenge for the organizers.
A discourse for everyone
The Comics Fair also has other functions. It is a place where fans can meet an array of national and international authors, where publishers, artists and their readers can make contact and discover new forms. It also has an educational role, with an attractive programme for visiting schools and academies.
The organizers of the fair are clear about this: “Comics are artistic products created through a synthesis of images and words. This combination of text and image creates a discourse that is easy to follow and stimulating for younger readers and others who have not acquired the habit of reading, making comics an important educational resource that is of great use in the classroom”. They add that “the aim of the Fair is to show how much fun education can be with comics, from reading comprehension and the narrative techniques employed in comics, to their capacity for synthesis and the support they can provide in many areas of the curriculum”.
A city in comics
Not only is Barcelona the setting for many comics (like the Gaudí comics on display in this edition of the Fair), but it is also a city fascinated by visual culture.
It is a city with a great tradition of shops specializing in comics, science fiction, role-playing games and video games, many of them located at the bottom of Passeig de Sant Joan, Via Laietana and the districts of Eixample and Gràcia. Then there is the Sunday Market of Sant Antoni, a must for collectors of all kinds.